Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VI/Archelaus/Acts of Disputation/Chapter XXXI
|←Chapter XXX|| Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VI, Acts of Disputation by , translated by Stewart Dingwall Fordyce Salmond
31. Listen also to what I have to say on this other expression which has been adduced, viz., “Christ, who redeemed us from the curse of the law.” My view of this passage is that Moses, that illustrious servant of God, committed to those who wished to have the right vision, an emblematic law, and also a real law. Thus, to take an example, after God had made the world, and all things that are in it, in the space of six days, He rested on the seventh day from all His works; by which statement I do not mean to affirm that He rested because He was fatigued, but that He did so as having brought to its perfection every creature which He had resolved to introduce. And yet in the sequel it, the new law, says: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Does that mean, then, that He is still making heaven, or sun, or man, or animals, or trees, or any such thing? Nay; but the meaning is, that when these visible objects were perfectly finished, He rested from that kind of work; while, however, He still continues to work at objects invisible with an inward mode of action, and saves men. In like manner, then, the legislator desires also that every individual amongst us should be devoted unceasingly to this kind of work, even as God Himself is; and he enjoins us consequently to rest continuously from secular things, and to engage in no worldly sort of work whatsoever; and this is called our Sabbath. This also he added in the law, that nothing senseless should be done but that we should be careful and direct our life in accordance with what is just and righteous. Now this law was suspended over men, discharging most sharply its curse against those who might transgress it. But because its subjects, too, were but men, and because, as happens also frequently with us, controversies arose and injuries were inflicted, the law likewise at once, and with the severest equity, made any wrong that was done return upon the head of the wrong-doer; so that, for instance, if a poor man was minded to gather a bundle of wood upon the Sabbath, he was placed under the curse of the law, and exposed to the penalty of instant death. The men, therefore, who had been brought up with the Egyptians were thus severely pressed by the restrictive power of the law, and they were unable to bear the penalties and the curses of the law. But, again, He who is ever the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, came and delivered those men from these pains and curses of the law, forgiving them their offences. And He indeed did not deal with them as Moses did, putting the severities of the law in force, and granting indulgence to no man for any offence; but He declared that if any man suffered an injury at the hands of his neighbour, he was to forgive him not once only, nor even twice or thrice, nor only seven times, but even unto seventy times seven; but that, on the other hand, if after all this the offender still continued to do such wrong, he ought then, as the last resource, to be brought under the law of Moses, and that no further pardon should be granted to the man who would thus persist in wrong-doing, even after having been forgiven unto seventy times seven. And He bestowed His forgiveness not only on a transgressor of such a character as that, but even on one who did offence to the Son of man. But if a man dealt thus with the Holy Spirit, He made him subject to two curses,—namely, to that of the law of Moses, and to that of His own law; to the law of Moses in truth in this present life, but to His own law at the time of the judgment: for His word is this: “It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” There is the law of Moses, thus, that in this world gives pardon to no such person; and there is the law of Christ that punishes in the future world. From this, therefore, mark how He confirms the law, not only not destroying it, but fulfilling it. Thus, then, He redeemed them from that curse of the law which belongs to the present life; and from this fact has come the appellation “the curse of the law.” This is the whole account which needs be given of that mode of speech. But, again, why the law is called the “strength of sin,” we shall at once explain in brief to the best of our ability. Now it is written that “the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners.” In these times, then, before Moses, there was no written law for transgressors; whence also Pharaoh, not knowing the strength of sin, transgressed in the way of afflicting the children of Israel with unrighteous burdens, and despised the Godhead, not only himself, but also all who were with him. But, not to make any round-about statement, I shall explain the matter briefly as follows. There were certain persons of the Egyptian race mingling with the people of Moses, when that people was under his rule in the desert; and when Moses had taken his position on the mount, with the purpose of receiving the law, the impatient people, I do not mean those who were the true Israel, but those who had been intermixed with the Egyptians, set up a calf as their god, in accordance with their ancient custom of worshipping idols, with the notion that by such means they might secure themselves against ever having to pay the proper penalties for their iniquities. Thus were they altogether ignorant of the strength of their sin. But when Moses returned (from the mount) and found that out, he issued orders that those men should be put to death with the sword. From that occasion a beginning was made in the correct perception of the strength of sin on the part of these persons through the instrumentality of the law of Moses, and for that reason the law has been called the “strength of sin.”
- Gal. iii. 13.
- Recte videre. But perhaps we should read “recte vivere,” to lead a righteous life.
- The phrase is imaginariam legem.On this expression there is a note in Migne, which is worth quoting, to this effect: Archelaus calls the Old Testament an emblematic or imaginary law, because it was the type or image of a future new law. So, too, Petrus de Vineis, more than once in his Epistles, calls a messenger or legate a homo imaginarius, as Du Cange observes in his Glossary, because he represents the person by whom he is sent, and, as it were, reflects his image. This word is also used in a similar manner by the old interpreter of Evagrius the monk, in the Disputation between Theophilus, bishop of Alexandria, and Simon the Jew, ch. 13, where the Sabbath is called the requies imaginaria of that seventh day on which God rested. Hence Archelaus, in his answer to the presbyter Diodorus, ch xli. beneath, devotes himself to proving that the Old Testament is not to he rejected, because, like a mirror, it gives us a true image of the new law.
- John v. 17.
- Reading “invisibilia autem et intrinsecus.” The Codex Casinensis has “invisibili autem et trinsecus.”
- Absurdam, standing probably for ἄτοπον, which may also be = flagitious.
- The codex reads, “ultionem fecerat retorquebat.” We adopt either “ultionem quam fecerat retorquebat,” or “ultionem fecit retorqueri.”
- Num. xv. 32.
- Matt. xviii. 21.
- Matt. xii. 32.
- 1 Tim. i. 9.
- This is one of those passages in which we detect the tendency of many of the early fathers to adopt the peculiar opinions of the Jewish rabbis on difficult points of Scripture. See also the Disputation between Theophilus of Alexandria and the Jew Simon, ch. 13. In accordance with the opinion propounded here by Archelaus, we find, for instance, in the Scemoth Rabba, p. 157, col. 1, that the making of the golden calf is ascribed to the Egyptian proselytes. See the note in Migne. [The passage is a note of antiquity and in so far of authenticity.]
- The text is in quo nec scelerum pœnas aliquando rependeret.